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Mud In The Water April 10, 2008

Posted by Mitch in Travel.
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I’m back from my whirlwind trip to Kuala Lumpur (the city’s name means Muddy Confluence, as it’s built around the meeting place of two rather muddy rivers). To be honest, it wasn’t really all that whirlwind, but it was a rather roundabout trip getting there and back.

I left my house on Friday 28th March and went to Shimonoseki where I stayed at Louise’s, despite her having a really leaky kitchen ceiling. Having had the best sushi in Japan followed by some great drinks, I headed to bed with a book that Kate had given me called The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynn. Check it out – it really is absolutely brilliant and it had me hooked so much that I pretty much finished it on the plane.

Early the next morning I had left the safe confines of Yamaguchi prefecture and was headed into Fukuoka. Arriving at the airport, I tried to withdraw the copious amounts of money I was sure I would need to, you know, live whilst I was away. Funnily enough, Japan tends to fail me more on technology than anything else (heating, ATMs) as ATMs don’t work until certain times. They close. Which means you’re left penniless if it’s between the hours of 9pm and 7pm…

So I had no money. Having checked in and being told that I would have to collect my luggage in Hong Kong and then check it back in again straight away if I wanted to leave it there overnight, I sat around, waiting for the damned ATM to open. When it did, I found that the exchange place in the airport wasn’t equipped to sell me Malaysian Ringgit, so I had to make do with some Hong Kong dollars and get my ass to Customs. There, I was told that my overnight bag was full of liquids that were very likely highly dangerous. Yes, my Superdrug Vitamin E cream is really a killer. So I had to check my second bag in.

Fast forward a bit and I’m sitting in Taipei. Why they felt the need to stop in Taipei is beyond me, but I got to see a bit of muggy Taiwan from the plane window. I had the option to get off the plane, but I was reading the aforementioned book and just couldn’t be arsed. And it was only for an hour.

When we landed in Hong Kong, I stood and waited for my bags with everyone else. An hour and a half went by and everyone had gone, but I was still standing there, waiting for the bags so I could check one of them back in, retaining my overnight bag because I was staying, surprisingly, overnight. I went over to the Baggage Information Desk and asked them what had happened to my bags, picturing them still in Fukuoka or, worse, somewhere else in the world, going round and round on the carousel. But no. The man told me that they were in Hong Kong, but they were on my plane going to Kuala Lumpur. Good, in theory, but my overnight bag had all my instructions on how to get to the house I was staying at in Hong Kong. So I had to request them to get it off the plane. Which meant another hour and a half wait. Of my 15 hours in Hong Kong, the first 3 and a bit were spent wandering aimlessly in the capacious baggage reclaim bit of the airport. Fun.

I eventually got to the house and was given directions on how to get a to a bar called Mes Amis that the people I was to meet would be at at 8pm. Leaving the house, I found 300 Hong Kong dollars on the floor. This consequently meant that I spent hardly any of my own money on drinks that night. I wandered around the streets of Hong Kong for a bit, warding off the women who tried to lure me into their strip clubs, killing time until I was to meet Val, Tom and Lucy. Val and Tom are my brother’s girlfriend’s parents. Lucy is her sister. They had been at the Rugby Sevens all day and by the time I met them, they were kind of steamed. But it was OK – I knew I had to maintain the good name of the Wilsons and catch up. So I did. The bar was really expensive, but opposite was a 7Eleven, so we would take regular trips over to the convenience store, stock up on beer and then just drink it outside. All in all, it was a good night out. But not so great a morning.

I woke up before 6am, still drunk and took a shower. Val got up and saw me out and I made my way to Hong Kong Airport once again. Actually, at this point, I just want to say that I had an absolutely amazing breakfast at the airport – smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, an English muffin and a hash brown. It was great!

When I got to Kuala Lumpur, I was kind of miffed to find that my friend (with whom I lived for two years at Uni) wasn’t there. Cue another long wait at an airport whilst I tried to figure out what to do. Eventually, I got my money changed at the bank their and got on the internet. Luckily, she’d sent me her phone number, so I was able to get in contact with her and eventually procure a taxi to get me to her house. The driver charged me double, but me, being unsuspecting, handed the cash on over. This was the first but definitely not the last instance of cab drivers ripping me off.

That night, we went to a BBQ at the poshest house I’ve ever seen. I could have quite happily lived in the pool house, it was so plush. There was a pool. There was a porch/BBQ area that was bigger than my house. There was convivial company. And there was food. From Tesco. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the wonder that is Tesco has made it all the way to Malaysia. It’s kind of different in ways, but it’s still Tesco. I even took a photo of the only one I went in whilst I was there. This may sound strange to those of you living in the UK, but I’ve not seen one of those bad boys for over 8 months now. It was like a breath of fresh, smoggy, English air.

We also went for sheesha and got to sit in a really cool Arabian tent outside whilst we puffed away, ate great food and chatted. By this time, I was starting to flag a little and the next morning didn’t see me at all, as I slept through it.

I won’t go into what I did every day in detail, because that would make this post ridiculously long. Remember how long the Vietnam entry was? I was in Malaysia for so much longer, so I’ll spare you the boredom.

But, I did explore the shopping centres of Kuala Lumpur (they’re SO huge and so well air conditioned), I went to the Aquarium (kind of pricey, but good fun, especially as I saw the shark feeding), went to the cinema 3 times (Japanese cinemas are expensive and they don’t really show English films), went to the Sky Bridge in the Petronas Towers (featured in the film Entrapment with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery).

I also took a day trip to Melaka, which was colonised by the Portuguese and the Dutch and is very pretty. I managed to get sunburnt there, actually. Hiza (my friend from uni) took me clubbing too. We went to a club called Frangipani and then to another called Mansion. Mansion was really expensive to get in, but one of her friends knew a guy with his name on the door, so we got in for free under his name. We then proceeded to help ourselves to the drinks they had constantly brought to their table. The thing about Kuala Lumpur is that the best, biggest, poshest, richest houses are right next to shanty towns. There’s a lot of money to be had in KL, but also a lot of poverty. Because of the influx of ex-pats, a lot of areas have seen huge expansion and property price booms, meaning that more and more Malaysian people who can’t afford there are forced out.

I also got to experience a Muslim wedding. Hiza’s cousin got married and we went to give our congratulations. It was ridiculously hot and, as it was outside, there was no air conditioning. We stayed for some food and to say hello to Hiza’s relatives but then made a speedy exit to an air conditioned home and numerous episodes of Friends.

Oh Friends. How I’ve missed you. I managed to get quite a few DVDs whilst I was there. For under £80, I got:

  • Grey’s Anatomy Season 3
  • Nip Tuck Seasons 3, 4 and 5
  • Desperate Housewives Seasons 2 and 3
  • Friends Seasons 1-10
  • All 21 Bond movies
  • An 8 film DVD with The Departed, Babel, Blood Diamond, Happy Feet, The Last King Of Scotland, The Queen, Pan’s Labyrinth and Dreamgirls
  • La Vie En Rose

Not too shabby, really, bearing in mind that normally, one season of Nip Tuck costs around £45.

The day before I left, I went to Lake Titiwangsa, in the north of KL and got a good view over the city. I also went up to Batu Caves, which is, as the name suggests, a complex of caves that have been turned into Hindu temples. All very colourful and absolutely full of monkeys.

So, yeah. I had a really great time and it was really relaxing. I don’t feel like I saw everything that could be seen in KL, but nonetheless, I had a really enjoyable trip away and saw what I went to see. It was great seeing Hiza again, too, especially as the last time we met up was before I went to Germany.

When I got back to Fukuoka, I was waiting for Customs behind a lot of Japanese people. They all went through seamlessly. It got to me; the white person, and suddenly the man had to go through all my bags. Every single one of them. He unpacked them and then left me to repack them. When he stumbled across the hoard of illegal DVDs I had stashed in my bag, he didn’t even raise an eyebrow. He was obviously just being a racist son of a bitch and he put me in a foul mood, one which I was not willing to hide. When he thanked me for my time in Japanese I stormed off, really annoyed that he had seen the need to rifle through all my belongings. It’s things like that that assure me that leaving after one year is the right thing to do.

And now I’m back in Kuga. I took the rest of the week off because I knew I would be knackered and that I’d have a hell of a lot of washing to do. But it’s all done now. I’ve unpacked. I’ve done all my washing. So I’m now just chilling out before my weekend starts. Another weekend away, in fact.

This weekend I’m off to Shimane prefecture to camp in Mongolian hut things and watch yabusame. Although I’ve mentioned before, this is samurai on horseback shooting arrows at things. Accompanied by a lot of drinking (on our part, not theirs I should hope). Should be good fun.

Having just tried to add photos into this post and failing miserably, please feel free to browse through the 3 albums of photos I took by following the links below.

Till next time!

Malaysia: Truly Asia I
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2148601&l=47391&id=61306034

Malaysia: Truly Asia II
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2148602&l=d479f&id=61306034

Malaysia: Truly Asia II
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2148603&l=bcbcb&id=61306034

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